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Utah woman nearly lost $20,000 in elaborate scam

By Dan Rascon, KSL TV | Posted - Feb. 28, 2020 at 8:03 a.m.

WEST JORDAN — A West Jordan woman fell for a $20,000 scam that even police say was incredibly sophisticated, and she wants others to know what to watch for.

The scammers managed to get into her computer and have her believe that they accidently deposited $20,000 into her bank account by pulling up her account on her own computer and showing the deposit.

It all started back in January for 79-year-old Linda Hermansen when a virus alert popped up on her computer saying that she was infected. She decided to click on the because she was concerned about losing all of her data, and didn’t want to bother her kids about it.

After following the promptings she got a phone call.

“He asked if he could access my screen. Hesitantly, I said yes,” said Hermansen.

She said that was the first red flag she should not have ignored.

Hermansen said the man then fixed all the viruses on her computer or at least all the virus alerts were gone. He then convinced her to buy a three-year service plan, which she did.

One month later he called back saying the company was going out of business and needed to refund her two payments of $200.00 for her service plan.

Hermansen said he pulled up a form and it had all her information on it.

“He had my name and phone number, my social security number — everything but the amount they were supposed to give me back,” she said.

Hermansen said they then pulled up her bank account and made it appear like she was transferring the money to her account from his account.

“I (typed) the dollar sign (and then) 200, and all of a sudden the figure came up $20,000. He added the zeros,” she said.

The caller then somehow pulled Linda’s bank account up and showed a $20,000 deposit to her account.

“He brought up my bank statement underneath my form and showed me see it’s already deposited in your account, the $20,000,” said Hermansen. “How could I see that money go onto my own bank statement if it wasn’t really happening?”

Be wary of someone who wants to get access to your computer… If it seems too good to be true, if it seems outlandish or strange, it probably is.

–Linda Hermansen

Hermansen said the man then told her to pay him back $19,500 because of the “typo” mistake, and they would call it even.

“He said, ‘No, we have to have cash… and this is how you do it,’” she said.

Hermansen went to the bank and withdrew $19,500 from her account, thinking she owed him that money. Then she packaged it a certain way and then sent it to an address in California through FedEx.

Fortunately, Hermansen’s daughter caught onto what was happening and called FedEx and they intercepted the package.

KSL TV was there as Hermansen and her daughter went to FedEx in Draper to pick up the package. FedEx had deposited the $19,500 and then cut Hermansen a check so the cash was not traveling through mail.

She was shaking as she opened the envelope.

“It’s $19,500 that I got back. I’m so glad!” she said. “I am so happy! Look at me shake.”

Sgt. J.C. Holt with the West Jordan Police Department said this was a good example of just how complex some of these scams are getting.

“It was very methodical. It was very calculated, very sophisticated. Really, they are getting better at it,” he told KSL.

Sgt. Holt said they tracked the address of the package to an Airbnb in California, so it’s very difficult to trace who was actually behind the incident.

He also said the detective investigating the case was able to speak with the suspect, who appeared to be out of the country and was going through an internet phone line.

“The officer even told him, ‘You need to stop. We are following up and you are taking advantage of these folks and what you are doing is illegal,’ and it didn’t faze them at all,” said Holt.

He offered advice to people who find themselves in a similar situation.

“Be wary of someone who wants to get access to your computer… If it seems too good to be true, if it seems outlandish or strange, it probably is,” said Holt.

Hermansen said she’s very embarrassed by what happened, and wishes she had listened to her inner feelings, but said she wanted to share her story so maybe someone else doesn’t fall for the same trap.

“There is just something about how polished they were. The answers that they have, they just suck you right in,” she said.

Dan Rascon

KSL Weather Forecast